Guerrilla Gardener Takes on South Central LA

Posted on July 3, 2015 by Dr. Lynda

You’ve heard of Gorilla Glue and Guerrilla Warfare? Both are a response to problems, but they are not always productive. Have you heard of the Guerrilla Gardener of South Central LA?

Image: Ron Finley standing on the curb of a street-side garden holding some key gardening essentials

Here’s what is said on the beautiful website about his amazing project:

Ron Finley is a man who will not sit still and watch a problem take root. Having grown up in the South Los Angeles food desert, Ron is familiar with the area’s lack of fresh produce. He knew what it’s like to drive 45 minutes just to get a fresh tomato. In 2010, he set out to fix the problem. Outside his front door, that is. Ron planted vegetables in the curbside dirt strip next to his home. And quietly, carefully, tenderly started a revolution.“I wanted a carrot without toxic ingredients I didn’t know how to spell,” says Ron.

His was an exceptionally creative, cost-effective and simple solution; however, it was also an act of spirited rebellion that led to a run-in with the authorities. The City of Los Angeles owns the “parkways,” the neglected dirt areas next to roads where Ron was planting. He was cited for gardening without a permit. This slap on the wrist did little to dissuade his green thumb. So Ron fought back. Hard. He started a petition with fellow green activists, demanding the right to garden and grow food in his neighborhood – and then, the city backed off. This caught the eyes of creative leaders and media voices that lauded his courageous act of ebullient defiance. Ron has continued to share his story and vision with the world, giving a TED talk and planning many exciting ways to continue his involvement in mitigating Los Angeles food deserts.

Image: Ron Finley at a streetside garden
Source: TED

His dreams have been reshaped into a thriving garden of pumpkins, peppers, sunflowers, kale and corn. But more than being a guerilla gardener, Ron is a community leader. Determined to change South Los Angeles from food desert to food forest, he wants his actions to be educational, inspiring, and nutritious. He wants kids to grow up with the option of healthy food, instead of fried, fattening staples. He wants to sweep up and transform his street, his hood, the city of LA and communities everywhere. 1

Now wait until you hear Ron speak for himself. A more compelling speaker would be hard to imagine. Here’s a story of finding the tools for transformation.

Even if you are not a gardener at all, this video is so moving and full of possibility that you will still be amazed!

Via: TED 2
Image: A man carrying a shovel and a basket of cabbages in front of a graffitied brick wall next to a wooden pink planter box full of ready to pick cabbages

I love this particular fellow for his candor, passion and genius. You can see much more about this project at It made me appreciate the potential in my own gardening knowledge and realize how far people actually are from their food. What if more public places were reclaimed by the public and used to grow food and flowers? I suspect that could be a paradigm shift that could take society many new places. From what I could tell in a brief google search, guerrilla gardening movements are springing up all over the world.

Here’s a great photo I found of one of these “Guerrilla Gardening Midnight Missions”:

Image: Midnight mission for guerrilla gardeners. Planting in the dark only lit by street lamps

The video we shared today is one of my favorite TEDtalks for the simple reason that this guy is “real”. There’s either too much cheesy or brutal “reality” on the web these day, or there’s not enough.  But this one hits the sweet spot that seems to strike at a common thread in all of us.

Image: rainbow over pond on a sunny day
Source: Dr. Lynda Ulrich

Since we are starting to see EWC articles used in school settings, I want to let you know that both those videos do have a little profanity, so if that hurts your ears, or if you have teens that have never heard bad words, you may want to moderate the pieces. I will say though, we only publish things with profanity on EWC if it is an integral part of the message or sentiments, and that is the case in both of those TEDtalks. Both have such powerful new insights and we suspect you’ll agree.

And I have one other great suggestion for another article to take a look at. Last summer I walked around our local farmer’s market and had the best time chatting with folks there. There’s a surprise ending you won’t want to miss! Take a look at Farmer’s Markets: Local, Unique, Delicious and Fun! 

Lastly, some of you know that we have a new TEAM of creators behind us now at (Thanks guys… I haven’t slept this well in months!) and we have charged them to keep the newly designed website very “real”: not too slick or trendy. We want it beautiful, friendly and a globally great experience. If you have feedback about what you love or want to change on this website, shoot me an email to let me know.

Image: Dr. Lynda and sunflowers
Ever Widening Circles founder: Dr. Lynda Ulrich with some flowers from her own garden.

I will pass your ideas on to the team working on the re-design which will take us into the future together. It’s your EWC community. Join us! Give us some ideas and help in the new design!


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Meanwhile, stay open, curious and hopeful!

~ Dr. Lynda